Saturday, December 17, 2022

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

Heaven is a short novel by Mieko Kawakami, which was published originally in Japanese in 2009. But it was teanslated to English only in 2021. Heaven is the story of a teenager who has a severe case of squinted eye (whose name is never revealed), being bullied by his classmates. He is befriended by Kojima, the girl in the class who is also bullied due to untidy appearance. Heaven explore their mutual friendship amidst a peer group that refuses to acknowledge their individuality. 

What made Heaven special for me is the refusal of the novelist to romanticise their relationship or the suffering they endure. Bullying parts are portrayed brutally and paints a vivid picture of the psychology of acceptance by the bullied person of their situation. They are ready to face this cruelty daily, sometimes even looking forward to it and identifying their weakness as a kind of strength. More than their tormentors, they are anxiuos not to reveal their wounds and scars to their parents or teachers, which makes their plight all the more deplorable. 

But Heaven makes an attempt to unveil the thought process of the bully also, which is a rather unconventional step in a novel like this. Through the voice of a passive bully, we find out how bullying is a very normal practice in the adult world too and how we call it with other names and refuses to acknowledge what actually it is. Even the ending refuses to oblige to the conventional narratives of teenage novels. 

It's available in Audible for free for subscribers. 

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